Yes You Can

My goal is to uplift and inspire readers that you can go to school or work and have a good life even though you live with a mental health challenge.

For those of us who are able to do this I offer hope because I’ve seen with my own eyes what’s possible.

One of my favorite quotes is from the Adidas store marquee on Lower Broadway in Manhattan: Impossible is Nothing. It’s a riff on challenging yourself to do what seems impossible, as if doing it is a piece of cake.

It’s not a piece of cake. Yet it can be done. As hard as life can get living with a mental health condition, it can be a good life often a better life at the same time.

In August 1990 I obtained a job as an administrative assistant to the director at an insurance firm. This was unheard of: for a person diagnosed with schizophrenia to be employed at any kind of job.

This risk paid off and I’ve been employed at jobs ever since.

That’s how I firmly believe if you want to go to school or get a job you deserve to try. A fortune cookie implores: “There is no shame in failure, only in quitting.”

It might take trying on different school majors or types of jobs before you’re able to find the one that’s a right fit with your personality and talents and what you’d like to do.

At HealthCentral, the editors cribbed something I wrote: “The only real failure is the failure to try.”

You can believe in yourself when others don’t. You can dare risk trying to do something and see how it goes. If at first you don’t succeed, you can try it a different way or change the goal to achieve something different.

Risking change can be scary. It can bring on self-doubt. That’s OK. Doubt can be a force that motivates you more so than a fear that deters you. Accept that the doubt will come on and remember the other times you tried to do something new and were successful.

If you haven’t tried this before, you might start out with a goal you can achieve and then progressively set the bar higher as you go along.

I’ll end here with the motto of Olympic champion Gabby Douglas:

“Dream. Believe. Achieve.”

This is easier said than done so my two books will give strategies for how to do this.

I can think of no better motto.

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Platform

My author bio lists my platform credentials.

I will shortly publish a book about how to flourish living with a mental illness.

I’m keeping a lot of it under wraps until early fall when my literary agent pitches the book to editors at publishing houses.

Expect a book that’s a game changer in the recovery field.

I’ve created this WordPress blog as the forum to write about the topics in the three books I will publish shortly.

My web designer is fine-tuning this blog so that I can have headers that link to blog entries on the topics of Left of the Dial, Flourish and Reviews.

Left of the Dial will offer excerpts from my memoir that goes on sale at the latest on December 1st.

Stay tuned for these exciting developments.

Hang Ten

Is the expression “hang ten” to refer to chilling out?

Woodshedding is a way to rest and recharge your batteries at any time in your life when you need to make an emotional pit stop before continuing on the road of recovery.

You might have a bout of unemployment and need to do your best to motivate yourself to do what it takes to find another job.

I bombed out of a career in the gray flannel insurance field, cycling in and out of jobs in offices. Like a fish out of water.

If you’re a square peg, you’ll be miserable trying to fit into a round hole, as the expression goes.

Taking time for quiet reflection about what suits you and what doesn’t will go a long way in helping you create a happy life for yourself.

I will talk in future blog entries here about techniques featured in my book, Flourish: 9 Strategies to Thrive with a Mental Illness.

On Tuesdays I’ll give a technique and on Thursdays I’ll give a specific real-life example.

Woodshedding Revisited

The concept of woodshedding goes back to December 2002.

Dr. John Strauss, Professor Emeritus of Yale University Medical school wrote an article in a newsletter about On Recovering From Schizophrenia:

“A lot of people with psychiatric problems talk about the importance of this kind of period of what we call ‘wood-shedding.’ That comes from the world of jazz, when a musician will go into the ‘wood shed’ when they’re trying to do something new. They’ll practice when out of the public eye. They’ll work things out by themselves.

When you see somebody or if you are somebody who has that kind of plateau, you don’t know that they’re going to stop there. In fact, it’s a fairly common thing that happens to quite a few people who then go on to improve significantly.”

Dr. Strauss admits there are no recipes and that different people do different things to help themselves and some people do opposite things, like spend time by themselves instead of with people.

A plateau is not the endpoint. There is no endpoint in recovery.

Only continual self-growth and the capacity for everyone to change their lives for the better in whatever fashion they’re able to.

Giving up on ourselves is not the answer even when others might not think we can recover. You can believe in yourself even when others do not.

Woodshedding. It’s something to think about.

Reaching Out

I have an astonishing story about how reaching out to one person changed my life for the better.

I offer it here to give readers hope that a happy accident can alter your fate. It wasn’t likely an accident in my life: it was the simple act of deciding to enter therapy in 1996 when I worked in the gray flannel insurance field and was floundering, chained to a desk in a cubicle in a nowhere job in a no-way-out life.

At least, I had no idea the future that awaited me. I was 31 and going through a life crisis so met with a therapist. The insurance only authorized 5 visits because I had a pre-existing condition. I was in danger of losing my job yet again. The therapist was a career counselor by day in Manhattan and on the weekends he conducted therapy sessions.

Instead of doing therapy, he gave me vocational counseling and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The result, he told me, was that a library career might be good for me. With that, I applied to and was accepted at the 3 library school programs in New York City.

I think about this often: how one fortuitous meeting with a therapist altered the direction of my life forever. Eighteen years later, I would like to try to contact the therapist to tell him I’m eternally grateful for his help.

Hey, you don’t ever know where reaching out can take you.

I had the courage to consider going into therapy at the second worst time in my life.

Reaching out enabled me to change my life for the better.

I’ll end here by suggesting a person reaches out to the right person at the right time in the right place.

My two experiences with talk therapy and my 10 sessions of cognitive behavior therapy and my short fateful meeting with the career counselor: I submit this as a good endorsement of reaching out for help.

Reaching out for help might be hard yet the alternative: going it alone the rest of your life: might be lonely.

You deserve to feel better. You deserve to have a good life.

Reaching out. Something to think about.

One Foolproof Tactic

I will write about one foolproof tactic for doing well in recovery and then talk about it on Thursday as it relates to how I used it.

I do not take lightly the idea of getting your mother or father, an aunt or uncle, your husband or wife or sister or brother to talk with your psychiatrist as the need arises.

Type up a letter stating your wishes and give it to your doctor to place in your file. Or possibly send him or her an e-mail documentation.

I do not subscribe to the current anti-treatment bias against parents: the widespread blaming of mothers for what happened to their kids who develop schizophrenia or another mental illness.

No no no: the anti-treatment crowd bad-mouths parents and unfortunately a lot of susceptible individuals are turned against the very people who can help them succeed: their family.

If you don’t have family, it becomes important to find friends and others in the community you can trust to have your back and who you can go to bat for too.

It’s called “reaching out” and as hard as it might be to do this: we all must reach out for the help that is available. If it seems like no help is available, we must diligently research treatment options that are available. It’s the ethic of “always keep fighting” for your right to get help.

I’ll return on Thursday with a surprising way I got help in my own life. One person I met only 5 times altered my fate for the better all because I reached out for help.

Reaching Out

The difference between getting to recovery and not doing well is often living with your symptoms for too long before reaching out for help.  It seems astounding that a person wouldn’t realize on his own that something is remiss in what’s going on.

Miraculously, I knew something was wrong and I reached out to my parents.  My mother drove me to the hospital within 24 hours and I got the right medication a day later and three weeks later the symptoms had stopped.

A family member or a trusted friend can be your biggest ally on your treatment team.

Going it alone isn’t easy and you don’t have to go it alone in your recovery.

My memoir, Left of the Dial, is in effect an ode to my mother.  I hope to publish it in September.

I’ll talk next about how to designate someone to talk with your treatment providers.